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Governments around the world are increasingly taking notice of the way certain publishers within the video game industry handles loot boxes in their titles, and it would seem that a reckoning is coming. Following a nine-month parliamentary inquiry here in the UK, conducted by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the government has been urged to regulate loot boxes under the Gambling Act, and outright do away with loot boxes in games aimed at children.
The lengthy inquiry resulted in an 84-page report based on evidence from various developers, academics, and trade bodies, though the report alleges a "lack of honesty and transparency" from certain game industry representatives. Committee chair, MP Damian Collins said of the report's findings, "loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm. It's time for [publishers] to be more responsible in dealing with the harms these technologies can cause for some users."
Collins also took aim at the UK Gambling Commission, which has said on multiple occasions that loot boxes don't qualify as gambling (predominately because the contents of a loot box typically don't hold any real cash value). Collins suggested that if the government wishes to maintain its current stance that loot boxes shouldn't fall under the gambling act, then they need to publish a paper explaining exactly why that should be. The committee has also recommended any games with loot boxes should come with a gambling content warning label, as well as an appropriate age warning from PEGI.
The DCMS Committee's recommendations aren't law, and they can only advise the government on how to proceed, but according to Eurogamer, a number of industry insiders have confirmed that the report and its findings will be taken seriously going forward.
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It remains to be seen how companies like EA will respond to these reports. It's no secret that the Ultimate Team Card Packs in FIFA titles are a hefty source of income for the publisher, who previously refused to comply with updated gambling laws in Beligum that stated loot boxes be removed from their games. You might also have heard about the meeting between EA and MPs back in June, during which a representative for the company infamously described loots boxes as "surprise mechanics" in attempt to convince the committee that such practices should not be considered gambling.
"We are pleased the Committee acknowledges that the majority of people play video games in a positive, safe and responsible way," Dr Jo Twist, CEO of UK Interactive Entertainment said in a statement responding to the report. "The industry does not dispute that, for a minority, finding balance is a problem. This is why we are vocal in supporting efforts to increase digital literacy and work with schools and carers on education programmes."
"The discussion around age ratings is actively ongoing and the system is continually reviewed. Changes have already been made including the introduction of an in-game purchase description label and as technology evolves so will the robust process by which it is reviewed and rated."
Featured Image Credit: EA
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